When meeting with representatives of enforcement authorities I always try to create a positive relationship, of course this is helped by ‘knowing’ what standards of operation the person is looking for. As the Fire Safety Officer had advised us of the time that he would be arriving at our shop I was on the shop floor ready to greet him. He introduced himself as Pav and told me what the purpose of his visit was, to help us understand and meet our obligations under the Fire Safety Order 2005. At this point I invited him to leave the shop floor to allow us to hold our meeting in private and without interruption.
His first request was to look at our Fire Risk Assessment. As he read through the document I told him that we had written our first risk assessment in 2006 and had reviewed it and rewritten it in reaction to his visit. He said that it was probably time to undertake the exercise. I next showed him our emergency management plan and he found this satisfactory.
Moving on to staff training I explained that we cover fire safety as part of our staff induction programme and again as preparation for his visit I had revisited fire safety and our evacuation training with all our employees and got them to sign our training document. After complimenting us on doing this he suggested that at the next fire safety training item we should show our staff how our fire extinguishers work.
Next we talked about fire drills and I said that we had undertaken one the previous week and that I had taken the opportunity of an empty shop to take some staff members through the process. He told me that was satisfactory. I also told him that we have undertaken evacuations in the past when we have had power cuts and that we had had no problems on those occasions. He suggested that we should record such incidents in our Fire Safety log.
Check your equipment regularly
The next topic covered was our equipment I explained that we have an annual contract with a household name company for our fire extinguishers and showed him our most recent service certificate. I told him that we have four emergency lights and that they were last checked out in April. He then told me that we need to test them on a monthly basis and to completely exhaust the batteries annually, that will now go into our fire safety calendar.
The visit lasted 30 minutes and after Pav had completed his paperwork he said that we had a good system to keep our business, staff, customers and ourselves safe. I discussed with him how we could improve our fire detection and he suggested that we may wish to look at siting some linked smoke and heat detectors in the at risk areas of the building including our living accommodation. I also asked him about the standards of other stores he has visited and he said that a shop in Horsham was so badly ignored the Fire Safety Order that they had been served with an Enforcement Notice. Serious!
I was very pleased by the way the visit went and delighted that we had been deemed to have a satisfactory approach to fire safety.
In his letter that he sent following the visit he said:
‘Further to the audit of the above premises, it is confirmed that your fire-risk assessment, fire precautions and maintenance routines are satisfactory and you comply with the requirements of the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005
‘You are reminded that it is your duty to maintain these standards and to undertake regular reviews of your risk assessment.
‘A further inspection will be carried out in the future as part of our risk-based audit programme.
Should you wish to discuss the contents of this correspondence, please contact the Inspecting Officer concerned on the above telephone number.’